Phyllis Schlafly & daughter Anne
Phyllis Schlafly & daughter Anne

September 5, 2019 was the third anniversary of the passing of my mother, Phyllis Schlafly, I reflect on how she was successful.

Phyllis Schlafly had a typewriter, a phone, and a mouth. She used all three of them daily. When I think of my childhood, I think of the clacking sound of her typewriter. She was always writing and she was always talking.

Her effective technique was the “three-minute speech”. By distilling her message to no more than three minutes, she would make her point and her point would be heard. She never wavered from three minutes and carried a stopwatch in her purse. If her time doubled, then she repeated the key points. She worked with supporters to teach them how to speak in exactly three minutes.

She thought that the solution to any problem was a single sheet of paper folded into thirds to make a pamphlet. She printed and distributed pamphlets on dozens of topics, from feminism to marijuana to the electoral college. A pamphlet is a three-minute speech in print form, so if she could not speak the message, then she mailed it. Three minutes is about 400 words.

She prided herself on “more facts in fewer words”. She made the complex easy to understand. She also loved to have fun with words. Arguments are more effective if they are memorable and funny. For example, she called the 1977 International Women’s Conference, “Federal Financing of a Foolish Festival for Frustrated Feminists.”

Phyllis Schlafly was “that person”; she was the one who was never afraid to speak her mind. Some people silence themselves because they might be called “that person” and thus marginalized because of their speech. No one wants to be the skunk at the garden party, but Phyllis was fearless.

My mother’s greatest legacy was that her fearlessness inspired women to get up, get out, and speak. “The silent majority” was no longer silent when Phyllis spoke. What I love about my mother’s story was that she was never intimidated by anyone. She stood up to bullies and stated her positions – and this is the important part – with grace, style, and class. She never insulted and she never shouted or screamed.

My mother was so confident and courageous that she did not copyright her words. She wanted her words to inspire others to repeat her words because she spoke the truth.

We all can be like Phyllis Schlafly and start speaking. The power of a short speech – of a few well-chosen words which distill an argument – can never be overestimated.

I am so grateful that I learned the power of three minutes from my mother.

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